The government of Gujarat has said that some 98,000 people were displaced by the communal violence and are now living in one hundred make-shift relief camps in different parts of the state.242 An overwhelming majority of the internally displaced in Gujarat are Muslims. Human Rights Watch visited two relief camps in Ahmedabad that together held 11,100 people. The information below is based on interviews with internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the camps, as well as representatives of nongovernmental and humanitarian agencies, reports by NGOs, and the press.
The state government of Gujarat has failed to provide effective and equitable protection and assistance to those displaced by the violence. Security in the camps remains precarious, and there have been serious delays in the delivery of assistance, compensation, and rehabilitation support. The camps continue to lack sufficient medical support and there are reports of discrimination in the delivery of assistance to Muslims, as compared to Hindus affected by the violence.
Government authorities are reported to be absent from many camps. In sharp contrast to the international and Indian community's response following a massive earthquake in the state in January 2001-when millions of dollars of international and civil society aid poured into the state243-the onus of providing food, medical support, and other supplies for victims of violence rests largely on local NGO and Muslim voluntary groups. Members of the victims' community are managing many camps' day-to-day operations. The Indian government has not acknowledged requesting any international or U.N. relief agencies to provide assistance and protection to those displaced by the violence.
In responding to the crisis of the displaced, the state government has failed to adhere to the standards laid out in the U.N. Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (Guiding Principles) and with international human rights standards.244
Conditions in the Camps
At Chartoda Kabristan, Gomtipur, the second camp visited by Human Rights Watch in Ahmedabad, residents were living in the most inhumane conditions. The camp is situated in a Muslim cemetery (kabristan). Many of its 6,000 residents were literally sleeping in the spaces between the graves. One resident remarked, "Usually the dead sleep here, now the living are sleeping here."245
Both camps were receiving assistance from NGOs and Muslim organizations in Gujarat, as well as limited food rations from the government. No police posts had been set up in the majority-Muslim camps in Ahmedabad and no security had been provided to camp residents, leaving residents unprotected and unable to register formal complaints-to be recorded as FIRs-with the police.
Protection and Security of IDPs
Residents of both camps visited by Human Rights Watch complained of the lack of security and protection both in the camps and in the neighborhoods from which they fled. As a result, many were unable to leave the camps for fear of being attacked or arrested by the police, who have been conducting combing operations in Muslim neighborhoods that were damaged or destroyed by mobs, and arbitrarily detaining Muslim youth returning to collect their belongings or assess the damage to their homes (see above). With no freedom of movement, the lack of police posts in the camps made it particularly difficult for residents to lodge FIRs with the police.
An organizer for the Chartoda Kabristan camp in Ahmedabad told Human Rights Watch that a lack of security was one of the biggest problems facing camp residents:
In the first week following the attacks, displaced persons in Ahmedabad also feared for their security within the camps. In some cases, the police did not intervene to stop attacks or incitement to violence, in direct violation of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement that state that internally displaced persons shall be protected against threats, incitement, and acts of violence intended to "spread terror" (Principle 11). On March 18, the Odhav camp in Ahmedabad was reportedly attacked with stones and petrol bombs. Camp residents told reporters that several similar attacks had taken place since the camp was set up on February 28. The police failed to intervene during the attacks, resulting in the deployment of army troops for the camp's protection.247
The insecurity in camps has been compounded by reports of loudspeakers blaring messages inciting Hindus to anti-Muslim violence from neighborhoods surrounding the camps. Citizens for Justice and Peace-a coalition of citizens from Mumbai and Ahmedabad that includes prominent human rights activists-has, among other activities, issued frequent appeals and updates since the start of the attacks.248 In their March 7 appeal the coalition reported that in certain camps in Ahmedabad in the week following the initial attacks camp residents were traumatized by "cassettes...played late at night, from the home of the perpetrators of the crime living in nearby societies, sending out the war-cry: `Looto, kato, maro, Jai Sri Ram!' (Loot, attack, kill, [Praise Lord Ram!])."249 An organizer for the Shah-e-Alam relief camp, one of Ahmedabad's largest camps, told reporters that the police were ignoring these new terror tactics.250
A lack of protection has also resulted in the forced isolation of Muslims still residing in their homes. Afraid to leave their ghettoes to get more supplies, many are facing acute food shortages in Ahmedabad.251
Threats of Forcible Return of Displaced Persons
An organizer at the Dariyakhan Ghummat camp told Human Rights Watch:
In the third week of March, Barot wrote a letter to the Minister of State for Home, Gordhan Zadaphia, asking him to dismantle the three camps in his constituency housing 6,000 people. More than three-quarters of the camps' inhabitants are Muslim and many are residents of Naroda Patia and Gulmarg Society. Although no incidents had been reported between the camp and area residents, the letter stated that the Hindus living near these camps-in Dariapur-Kazipur-were feeling insecure because of the presence of so many riot victims. Barot also conveyed his demand to Chief Minister Narendra Modi.253 Barot's plea was turned down due to severe national criticism of the role of the state government in the violence.254
A thirteen-member All-party Committee on Relief and Rehabilitation (the Committee) was set up by the state government on March 16, following an announcement by Prime Minister Vajpayee in the Lok Sabha (House of the People, Indian parliament).255 At the first meeting of the Committee, held under the chairmanship of Governor Sunder Singh Bhandari in late March, Chief Minister Modi said that contrary to his initial proposal to close the camps by the end of March,256 the state would not close the camps and that the victims would not be forced to return to their homes.257 The Committee also agreed to deal with rehabilitation measures and proposed that they be implemented through nongovernmental organizations. The reversal was reportedly prompted by pressure by the opposition Congress party.258
Access to Humanitarian Assistance
Government aid, mainly food rations, did not reach the camps until at least a week after the onset of attacks. The amounts received have been inadequate to fulfill the camps' daily food requirements. Aid workers continue to report an acute shortage of food, cooking oil, sugar, medical supplies, clothes, and blankets in Ahmedabad. A report in the Hindustan Times added that camps housing thousands of people had only six toilets each and people were receiving only sixty grams of wheat a day.259
In the week following the initial attacks police and members of the city administration obstructed the work of NGOs and other organizations attempting to deliver relief supplies to relief camps and to the walled area of Ahmedabad. A number of local and international NGOs were either refused access or denied the protection they needed to be able to provide assistance,260 in violation of Principle 26 of the Guiding Principles that calls on states to protect persons engaged in humanitarian assistance, as well as their transport and supplies, from attacks or other acts of violence.
A Jesuit priest in Ahmedabad told reporters that government officials refused to lend a single truck to deliver food to the camps. He added: "They won't give us police protection. The other day, armed Hindu men stopped us as we were coming out of a Muslim neighborhood and held spears to our throats."261
An organizer of the Chartoda Kabristan camp told Human Rights Watch that while the government had provided some food supplies, the amounts given were not enough to fulfill the camp's daily requirements. Moreover, in what was described as a "government boycott," the government refused to transport the rations to them and told them to get their own trucks and pick them up themselves.262 Without security or transportation, this was often a difficult demand to fulfill. On the road leading to the Chartoda Kabristan camp, Human Rights Watch saw numerous trucks owned by Muslims that had been completely destroyed by fire during the attacks.
Muslim organizations have also been providing the camp with much needed supplies. The organizer for the Chartoda Kabristan camp stated:
On April 4 Prime Minister Vajpayee announced a federal relief package for the "riot victims" that included two months free rations for those families living below the poverty line in areas affected by violence. The package also included a free set of textbooks and a school uniform for children living in relief camps. When announcing the package, the Prime Minister warned that relief provisions should be distributed without discrimination based on communal lines (see below).264
Medical Care and Psychological and Social Services
Residents of relief camps in Gujarat are in desperate need of medical attention and trauma counseling. In some camps, babies have been delivered without any medical support.265 Seven days after arriving at the Dariyakhan Ghummat camp in Ahmedabad, the residents were finally provided with sanitation facilities such as toilets, that too from a local nongovernmental organization. During the first weeks there was an outbreak of gastroenteritis in the camp and camp residents suffered from diarrhea and vomiting. Private doctors finally reached the camp a few weeks after it was set up to stem the outbreak.266
By mid-April measles had broken out in the relief camps in Ahmedabad, raising fears of an epidemic. The overcrowded and unhygienic conditions in the camps-which include a shortage of toilets-have made it impossible to quarantine victims. According to a senior heath ministry official in Delhi: "People are being forced to defecate in the open,"267 a breeding ground for mosquitoes and fleas. "In the absence of enough tents," he added, "people are sleeping outside, exposing themselves to the virus."268 The Gujarat government and the union health ministry have started working with voluntary organizations to launch vaccination drives in the camps.269 With temperature soaring above 40 degrees celsius (105 degrees farenheit), the threat of summer diseases also loom large. The spread of cholera, gastroenteritis, jaundice, as well as respiratory infections and dehydration is also feared.270 The federal government announced in mid-April that it would sanction medicine worth Rs. 82.6 million for use in the camps, as requested by the Gujarat government. Although government agencies have also begun setting up medical camps, the infrastructure is reportedly inadequate.271 The Indian Red Cross Society has also been providing medical relief in violence-affected areas.272
The psychological impact on victims of the communal violence is immense. Aid workers have cited an urgent need for counseling to help the victims cope with their trauma.273 Sociologist Susan Vishwanathan told Channelnewsasia, "The psychological degradation that comes from watching people closest to you being killed, raped, mutilated, ravaged. These [are] far greater than that of loss of material possessions."274 Rape victims are also in desperate need of psychological support.
U.N. Agencies and International Humanitarian Organizations
As of April 16 the Indian government had not made any requests to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a leading U.N. agency in India,275 or to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA) to provide assistance to the relief camps.276 Officials from these agencies told Human Rights Watch that they were unaware of any efforts by the U.N. to address the humanitarian needs of those affected by the violence in Gujarat.
Discrimination in the Distribution of Compensation and Relief
There is also evidence of discrimination in the distribution of compensation. Soon after the Godhra attack, the Gujarat state government announced that the families of Godhra victims would receive Rs. 200,000 (U.S.$4,094) as compensation. Their decision to then issue only Rs. 100,000 to Muslims whose family members were killed in revenge attacks came under sharp criticism from numerous NGOs and Indian officials outside the Gujarat state government, including two former prime ministers.281 The amount of compensation for the families of Godhra victims was later reduced to parity with the compensation for revenge attack victims, but only after VHP activists stated they would be satisfied if families of Hindu victims received the lower amount.282
The federal relief package announced by Prime Minister Vajpayee during his visit to Gujarat on April 4 included the following provisions. Each family that lost a member would receive Rs. 150,000. Rs. 100,000 would come from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund while Rs. 50,000 would come from the state.283 In addition those who suffered permanent disability would be given Rs. 50,000.284 As a result of the Prime Minister relief announcement, the Gujarat government decided to reduce its compensation amount for families of deceased victims from Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 50,000. The National Minorities Commission has strongly urged the state government to compensate victims at the amount the government originally stated it would.285
Vajpayee also announced that those whose homes were completely damaged in rural areas would receive Rs. 50,000 while those whose homes had suffered partial damage would receive Rs. 15,000. In urban areas rehabilitation measures would be worked out after a comprehensive survey. Vajpayee added that victims would not be resettled along communal lines. The federal government will also bear all the expenditure for the reconstruction of damaged homes. Those who lost shops and commercial establishments would also be compensated.286
Press reports indicate that a majority of the family members of those killed have yet to receive their compensation disbursements. A coordinator for the Shah-e-Alam camp in Ahmedabad told the Times of India that only seven out of the 131 families in the camp who lost family members had received compensation. An organizer for the Dariyakhan Ghummat camp added that Rs. 40,000 of the Rs. 150,000 to be allotted each family had reached 40 percent of the victims in his camp.287
The disparate provision of relief and rehabilitation for Muslim and Hindu victims of violence was similar to the Gujarat government's treatment of victims along communal and caste lines following the January 26, 2001 earthquake in the state. Within days of the country's worst natural disaster in recent history at least 30,000 were declared dead and over one million were left homeless. In the months after the earthquake, residents of the state of Gujarat were besieged by man-made problems: caste and communal discrimination in the distribution of relief and rehabilitation, corruption in the handling of aid, and political squabbling that did little to help the earthquake's neediest victims.
Six weeks after the earthquake, Human Rights Watch visited the towns of Bhuj, Bhijouri, Khawda, Anjar, and Bhachau in Kutch, the state's most devastated district. In all areas visited by Human Rights Watch, Dalits and Muslims were segregated in camps from upper-caste Hindus. Several residents and survivors told us, "We are surviving the way we lived, that's why we are in separate camps." While the government had allocated equal amounts of monetary compensation and food supplies to members of all communities following the earthquake, Dalit and Muslim populations did not have the same access to adequate shelter, electricity, running water, and other supplies available to others. This was apparent in several cities near Bhuj, including Anjar and Bhachau, where the government had provided far superior shelter and basic amenities to upper-caste populations.
A nineteen-year-old male resident of Dariyakhan Ghummat camp, fearing that international aid would not reach the Muslims, alluded to corruption and communal bias in the distribution of aid following the January 2001 earthquake:
Rehabilitation and Return
While the Indian government has announced plans for the reconstruction of homes and places of business (see above), extensive government surveys of the extent of the damage have yet to take place.289
An organizer of the Dariyakhan Ghummat camp told Human Rights Watch in March that no work had begun on the construction of new homes:
Activists in the state have also pointed to problems related to damage assessments of Muslim properties and homes. Speaking on conditions of anonymity, an attorney told Human Rights Watch: "The police panchnama [statement of witnesses] is being done in the victim's absence. Let's say I had two lakhs [Rs. 200,000] worth of damage in my home, the police will only write that there is Rs. 25,000 worth of damage."
The process of rehabilitation has been further complicated by the destruction or loss of personal documents during the violence. Many relief camp residents told Human Rights Watch that their identification, education, and even medical certificates had been destroyed during the burning and looting of their homes. At the time of Human Rights Watch's visit, no system was in place to systematically document the numbers and identities of those residing in relief camps.
The insecurity and ongoing violence in the state has made it impossible for most displaced persons to return to their homes. Human Rights Watch was told numerous times that residents did not feel safe in their neighborhoods. Some stated that their attackers were still roaming the streets. Residents also feared being arbitrarily detained by the police in their neighborhoods (see above). Press reports also document instances in which Muslim families were threatened by Hindu mobs, armed with swords and other weapons, as they attempted to return to their homes.292
Until the government of Gujarat ends the environment of impunity, addresses those responsible for the attacks, including police and state government officials, provides adequate protection for all those affected by the ongoing violence, and ensures that those displaced can either recover, or be fully compensated for their property and possessions lost during the violence, internally displaced persons will be unable to return to their homes.
242 Manas Dasgupta, "No plan to close camps - Modi," Hindu, April 1, 2002.
243 Vinay Menon, "Gujarat - A year after," Hindustan Times, January 27, 2002.
244 The U.N. Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement were presented to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (the Commission) in 1998 by the Special Representative of the U.N. secretary-general on internally displaced persons, Francis Deng and unanimously adopted by the commission. Although non-binding, the Guiding Principles are based upon and reflect international humanitarian and human rights law, which are binding. The Guiding Principles address all phases of displacement-providing protection against arbitrary displacement, ensuring protection and assistance during displacement, and establishing guarantees for safe return, resettlement, and reintegration. The Guiding Principles have gained widespread international recognition and authority. Resolutions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly have described the Principles as a comprehensive framework for the protection of internally displaced persons, and have welcomed their use and encouraged U.N. agencies, regional organizations, and NGOs to disseminate and apply them. U.N. agencies and NGO umbrella groups in the U.N. Inter-Agency Standing Committee have endorsed them. Regional bodies in the Americas, Africa, and Europe have endorsed or acknowledged them with appreciation. Individual governments have begun to incorporate them in national policies and laws and some national courts have begun to refer to them as a relevant restatement of existing international law. See http://www.reliefweb.int/ocha_ol/pub/idp_gp/idp.html (accessed April 23, 2002).
245 Human Rights Watch interview, forty-five-year-old male resident of Chartoda Kabristan camp, Ahmedabad, March 23, 2002.
246 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 23, 2002.
247 Amnesty International, "India: The state must ensure redress for the victims. A memorandum to the Government of Gujarat on its duties in the aftermath of the violence," March 28, 2002.
250 S.N.M. Abdi, "Muslim refugees face new horrors in camps," South China Morning Post, March 25, 2002.
251 "Threat of starvation looms large in Ahmedabad areas," Press Trust of India, April 6, 2002.
252 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
253 Meghdoot Sharon, "Riot victims are security risk," Indian Express, March 22, 2002.
254 Malekar, "Silence of the Lambs," The Week.
255 "Committee to oversee relief work in Gujarat," Press Trust of India, March 25, 2002.
256 Manas Dasgupta, "Gujarat police top brass want a `free hand,'" Hindu, March 24, 2002.
257 Manas Dasgupta, "No plan to close camps - Modi," Hindu.
259 "Muslim refugees face new horrors in camps," South China Morning Post.
260 Amnesty International, "India: population of Ahmedabad, Gujarat," Urgent Action, March 5, 2002.
261 "Muslim refugees face new horrors in camps," South China Morning Post.
262 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 23, 2002. See also, Malekar, "Silence of the Lambs," The Week.
263 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 23, 2002.
265 Bose, "Ethnic Cleansing in Ahmedabad."
266 Human Rights Watch interview, relief worker at Dariyakhan Ghummat camp, Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
267 Sutirtho Patranobis, Rathin Das, "Measles outbreak in camps," Hindustan Times, April 17, 2002.
270 Thomas Kutty Abraham, "India riot relief camps face health problems," Reuters, April 3, 2002.
271 "Refugees in Gujarat camps pray for more relief aids," Channelnewsasia, April 16, 2002.
272 "Indian govt to provide measles vaccine to prevent epidemic," Press Trust of India, April 18, 2002.
273 "Muslim refugees face new horrors in camps," South China Morning Post.
274 "Refugees in Gujarat camps pray for more relief aids," Channelnewsasia.
275 Human Rights Watch interview, UNDP representative, April 16, 2002.
276 Human Rights Watch interview, UNOCHA representative, April 16, 2002.
277 "Muslim refugees face new horrors in camps," South China Morning Post. Principle 4 of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement stipulates that the principles must be applied without discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on religion.
278 Amnesty International, "India: The state must ensure redress for the victims."
279 Bose, "Ethnic Cleansing in Ahmedabad." In addition, the VHP has announced plans to reimburse the medical expenses of members of the majority community injured in the violence, and provide financial aid to those rendered homeless. "VHP to compensate violence-affected members of majority community," rediff.com, April 2, 2002. http://www.rediff.com/news/2002/apr/02train1.htm (accessed April 10, 2002).
280 "Muslim refugees face new horrors in camps," South China Morning Post.
281 "Gujral, VP Singh Want Equal Compensation for All," Economic Times, March 8, 2002
282 NHCR proceedings, para. xii,
283 "Don't discriminate-PM tells Modi," Times of India, April 5, 2002.
284 "PM Announces Relief Measures for Riot Victims," rediff.com.
285 Anita Joshua, "Raise Compensation for Victims, Restore Confidence," Hindu, April 7, 2002
286 "Don't discriminate-PM tells Modi," Times of India.
287 Sourav Mukherjee, "Give us peace and then ask for votes, say relief camp inmates," Times of India, April 17, 2002.
288 Human Rights Watch interview, nineteen-year-old male resident of Dariyakhan Ghummat camp, Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
289 "Refugees in Gujarat camps pray for more relief aids," Channelnewsasia.
291 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
292 See for e.g., Maria Abraham, "India's riot-hit Muslims fearful of going home," Reuters, March 22, 2002.